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Multilingualism as an Outcome of Reclamation: New, Ordinary Uses of myaamia
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From an Indigenous vantage point, speaking myaamia warrants no special explanation: myaamia is the language of heritage for Miami tribal members, core to Miami culture, and established in diverse domains. However, given the forces of colonialism that have removed spaces for Indigenous language use, devalued Indigenous cultures, and asserted monolingualism in English as an unmarked norm for the United States, it is not surprising that myaamia language practices have often been viewed from the outside as extraordinary. Further motivating this ideology, myaamia was once termed “extinct” (Leonard, 2008, 2011) and its contemporary speaking practices have developed almost entirely within a context of reclamation “from ground zero” (Baldwin, 2003) since the early 1990s. Though possibly “extraordinary” from a colonial lens that imposes English monolingualism as a norm and ideal, the language practices of Miami people challenge the idea that Indigenous language use is “extra” and exemplify how multilingualism can be a positive outcome of reclamation: Many tribal members now study myaamia as a second language and use it, largely as nonfluent speakers, as a means of developing and asserting a Native identity. Some tribal children acquire myaamia at home, and likewise speak it alongside English as part of their daily lives as members of Miami and United States cultures.

Drawing on my experiences as a Miami tribal member and on discussions with other Miami people, I offer several vignettes that illustrate contemporary myaamia language practices, focusing on the multilingual repertoire that has developed through 25 years of community language reclamation efforts. Examples include the recent use of myaamia in electronic networking such as with Twitter, the incorporation of myaamia into games, the presence of myaamia in tribal publications, and the use of myaamia to conduct official (legal) tribal business that for years had been conducted entirely in English.

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